By Mia Summerson
Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Beautification Commission’s annual citywide clean-up is getting some help this year from code enforcement officers who, at the direction of Mayor Paul Dyster, will help 750 volunteers to tidy up Niagara Falls.
The city will focus its code enforcement efforts on the center city area and downtown core during Saturday's clean sweep event. In a release from his office, Dyster said both structural and clean neighborhood ordinances will be enforced.  Dyster said the city plans on executing several more blitzes, each with a specific target area and goal. The effort is being supported with grant funds obtained by the community development department through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Code enforcement and property accountability are top priorities for our citizens,” Dyster said. “The blitzes help us quickly address blight issues block by block.”
Since 2006, the NBC has been organizing the annual Beautify Niagara event, bringing together a diverse group of volunteers to clean up everywhere from downtown to the Hyde Park area to LaSalle.
“This year, there are 83 different groups, and over 750 individual volunteers,” long-time event supporter and organizer Norma Higgs said. “You have to continuously stay on top of it because every day more people sign up. It’s a big job, but it’s easy enough because I do it every year.”
The “Blight Blitz”, as Dyster is calling it, kicks off at 8 a.m. on Saturday. Volunteers will gather under the arch at the Third Street entrance to the Seneca Niagara Casino before the cleanup begins.
“The NBC is bringing together over 700 dedicated citizens, giving their free time to make our city better,” Dyster said. “This year our volunteers will be joined by code enforcement officers targeting commercial and residential blight. We are combining forces for a greater impact and using federal dollars to be cost effective.”
Volunteers will each be given gloves and a supply of five garbage bags, and then they will spread out to get to work cleaning their assigned areas.
Though the official sign up is now over, Higgs says anyone else who wishes to volunteer is welcome to help out, but they might want to bring extra gloves and trash bags.
Even though Higgs reported 750 volunteers, she said she expects the numbers to climb by the time the cleanup begins. In 2010, there were 1,300 volunteers and in 2011 there were 1,100.
“I’m always grateful to the people who come back,” Higgs said. “This year we have the Cub Scouts, the Boys and Girls Club, it’s just such a diverse group. Business people, union people, teenagers, all kinds of people come to clean up.”
The Beautify Niagara clean-up has been going on since the 1980s and started as a promotion to get residents to keep their own areas clean.
If everyone took care of their own little corner of the world, this would not be a problem, according to Higgs.
She said there are plans in the works to organize small spot clean-ups of specific areas once or twice a month to help maintain the work they do each year.
The LaSalle Pride organization is also working with the NBC to help with the LaSalle portion of the clean up. Though most of the volunteers will be meeting downtown at the casino, Prince of Peace Church on Military Road will also serve as a meeting place for volunteers who wish to clean up in the LaSalle area.
“It’s a fun thing,” Higgs said. “We try to make it fun, there’s a picnic and everyone socializes. People feel like they’ve done something, they go home feeling like they’ve done something good.”